The Old Post Office building that dominates Leeds’ City Square has an exciting new resident.
Banyan bar and kitchen is the latest addition to the city’s ever-expanding bar and restaurant scene — sometimes it can be hard to keep up with all the new faces.
But Banyan’s come from good stock — owned by the same company behind Headingly haunts Arc and Trio and city centre venues The Pit and Manhatta.
Keen to see what the newest member of the Arc Inspirations had to offer, my boyfriend Matt and I visted for dinner on Monday evening.
Banyan sits in the sun trap of City Square, in the building previously occupied by Loch Fyne.
Inside, its high ceilings and sleek wood decor make for a modern, sophisticated setting — made cosy and informal by close tables and leather booths.
The menu offers a mixture of small plates and sharing platters, lighter dishes including sandwiches, wraps and salads, then a varied menu of main dishes, from fish pie to Indonesian curry, steaks and burgers.
There was also a seasonal specials menu, including a rack of lamb for two to share.
We chose a bottle of Il Caggio’s montepulciano d’abruzzo as we browsed the menu — a warm, smooth red reasonably priced at £18.95 for the bottle.
To begin, I opted for a small plate from the specials menu — a fresh crab and avacado open tortilla with lime and jalepeno sour cream. My partner, fond of seafood, was quick to order the calamari, which came with a wasabi sour cream.
The crab was beautifully fresh, and thinly sliced chilies gave the creamy flavour of the avacado a welcome kick. It was offered as a starter or main course option and I can see why — after finishing, I would have gladly eaten it all over again.
My boyfriend’s calamari was cooked perfectly, with crisp batter and melt-in-the-mouth calamari rings — but there was an absence of seasoning. While the wasabi cream added a certain zing, without it the calamari were a touch bland.
I followed with a salmon skewer, stacked with onions, peppers and courgettes and served with a teriaki sauce, a warm flatbread, fries and salad, while my partner indulged in a fillet steak with peppercorn sauce, fries and onion rings.
The salmon skewer was a healthy portion of fish and vegetables, and the teriyaki sauce was tangy but not too sweet, and there was plenty of it. With the flatbread and fries, it was rather carb-heavy — but salad and vegetable sides are on offer too.
Matt’s steak almost never was — both the rump and the rib eye steak had sold out (bank holiday rush, perhaps), and he originally ordered the fish pie before deciding the £24.95 price tag wasn’t going to put him off a fillet, the only steak on the menu they had in stock. Luckily our attentive waitress Becky was happy to bolt up to the kitchen and change the order before the chefs started cooking.
It was a wise decision — the fillet, cooked medium rare, melted in the mouth, with and added peppery kick from the accompanying sauce. Matt said the steak was ‘seared beautifully on the outside, with very little fat. It had chew, but broke down nicely and held its heat well’.
We battled on to choose desserts, determined to try all three sections of the menu. I opted for the terribly tempting warm triple chocolate brownie, while Matt chose the salted caramel and chocolate torte, having a weakness for anything with salted caramel. Both were served with honeycomb ice cream.
The brownie, deliciously stodgy and sticky, was loaded with discs of white chocolate and nicely baked on the outside, with a soft middle.
The torte, while rich, didn’t have quite enough salted caramel to tick all of Matt’s boxes, but the chocolate flavour was delicious on its own, which helped.
After three courses and a bottle of wine, we were well and truly ready for home — but I promised myself that next time I’d leave room for one of Banyan’s pistachio espresso martinis.
Banyan’s menu may be simple, but its dishes all have modern twists that make the fresh flavours come to life. It was a relaxed, indulgent experience from start to finish.
The Old Post Office, 2 City Square, Leeds
Tel: 0113 243 4600
Opening hours: 10am-midnight Monday-Saturday, 10am-11.30pm Sundays
The bill: £74.12 for two including drinks — £10.43 discount thanks to my partners Arc privilege card
Would you go back? I plan to!